A weekend series could not start any better than a one run complete game by Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher Jarod Weaver. The Angels were able to tie up the series with the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday night by winning 6-1 in Weaver’s first career complete game.
Matt Palmer took the hill on Friday night against the surprising first place Kansas City Royals. Palmer would get the win after throwing seven innings and allowing the bullpen to have a little breathing room. Shields and Arradondo did allow a few across, but not enough to blow another lead. The game’s highlight was when Howie Kendrick got an inside the park homerun.
Saturday night was a true pitcher’s duel. Zack Greinke took the mound with an astonishing 0.40 ERA entering the game. Not since Fernando Venezuela has a pitcher had that low of an ERA six games into the season. The Angels would send their ace to the hill in Joe Saunders. Entering the game, Saunders had a nice ERA of 3.26, best for the Angels. Saunders had the best strikes to balls ratio at 2-1 in his 101 pitches. Greinke was about 3-2 out of 115 through eight innings.
The Angels were a doubling machine that night. Out of their four hits, three were doubles. And it was needed. In the third inning, Gary Matthews Jr. came into second standing on a line shot down the right field line. Eric Aybar ground right back to Greinke, but he didn’t check Matthews Jr. back to second, so he advanced to third. Chone Figgins just missed a 1-1 pitch and flied out deep to right. But it did the job. Matthews Jr. virtually walked to home to give the Angels a 0-1 lead.
But the fear came in the eighth inning when Bloomquist led off for the Royals with a routine ground out to Aybar at short stop. Somehow, the ball got lost somewhere in transition and Morales had to stretch further than a human is supposed to stretch to keep the ball from getting away. Catcher, Miguel Olivo shot one into left field Mike Aviles bunted both over.
Coco Crisp ground right to Figgins at third and with great luck, Olivo stumbled right into Figgins who was keeping Bloomquist close to third. Crisp reached base nonetheless, but with Dejesus grounding to Figgins, the threat was over.
Joe Saunders struck out the last two in the ninth bringing his total to six for the night. But the more important thing is that Saunders got his first complete game shutout. He allowed five hits and one walk in the quick game. Zack Greinke also went the distance in his first loss of the season. He allowed one run on four hits, getting five strikeouts with zero walks.
But you can see what makes the Angel starters better than everyone in baseball. Entering Sunday’s, the Angels had a Major League leading 3.50 combined ERA for starters. Their opponent, the Kansas City Royals, is third with and ERA of 3.68. What makes them great is the ability to get ahead of batters.
On Saturday, Saunders was ahead of nearly every batter. But Sunday, Shane Loux was the exact opposite, getting behind nearly every single batter. Loux would go only 3 2/3 Sunday, giving up three runs on eight hits while striking out two and walking one. Major props have to be given to Angel manager, Mike Scioscia, for pulling Loux before too much damage was done.
Darren Oliver gave up one hit in his 2 1/3 innings when he turned it over to Scot Shields. In his two innings of work, Shields was brillant. Out of the seven batters he faced, one would walk, one popped out to center, one ground out to second, and the other four went down swinging.
It is never more important for a pitcher to throw strike, however, than when throwing to a base. In the seventh inning, Kansas City reliever, Jamey Wright, threw the ground ball from Howie Kendrick over the second basemen’s head trying for an inning ending double play. The throw allowed Mike Napoli to reach third and from there it was all down hill for the Royals.
Kendrick stole second and was brought in by a double right field. Mathis scored on a great bunt from Figgins that nearly got Figgins on base. Wright got Matthews Jr out to end what should have been an easy inning.
In the ninth, the bullpen was about to fail again. Callaspo drove a fastball deep over the wall to tie the… “HE DID WHAT?” At the wall Torii Hunter robbed the Royal’s second baseman of a game tying homerun when he soared above the left center wall to save the game. Fuentes did allow the next two to reach, but got the double play to put the Angels two games above .500 and extend their winning streak to four games (a season best).
All the Angels have to do is keep throwing strikes and they will win. With the Texas Rangers ahead by a half game in the American League West and the ship seemingly righted, for now, winning 100 games is still a possibility. A slim possibility, but still there.